DHA during pregnancy enhancing infant neural development/cognitive function
Aside from being a major structural lipid of the brain, studies have demonstrated that DHA enhances brain development.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial, pregnant women consumed 300 mg DHA 5 times a week (n=14) or placebo (n=15) from 24 weeks of gestation until delivery. Tests of problem solving and recognition memory were administered to infants at 9 months of age. Treatment had significant effects on the performance of problem-solving tasks
A double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial of the effect of high potency DHA fish oil during pregnancy has found beneficial effects for cognitive development, particularly eye-hand co-ordination. Pregnant women (n=98) received supplementation with fish oil (2.2g DHA plus 1.1g EPA/day) or olive oil from 20 weeks gestation until delivery. Their infants (n=72) were assessed at 2.5 years of age. Children in the fish oil supplemented group (n=33) attained a significantly higher score for eye-hand coordination (mean score 114, SD 10.2) than the placebo group (n=39, mean score 108, SD 11.3; p=0.021, adjusted p=0.008). Eye-hand coordination scores correlated with w-3 PUFA levels in cord blood erythrocytes (EPA: r=0.320, p=0.007 and DHA.
A review of eight randomised controlled trials comparing cognitive development in controls and in children who had received fish oil supplementation was used to extrapolate the results to prenatal intake. It was estimated that increasing maternal DHA intake by 1g/day increases a child’s IQ by 1.3 points.
Also consistent with evidence suggesting a link between DHA and cognitive development in infancy is the study where toddlers of mothers with higher levels of DHA at birth showed more mature developmental profiles on single-object attention measures and more optimal performance on distractibility assessments than toddlers from mothers with lower DHA.
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